Our double-standard with animals

“NY State Police investigating after cows thrown from moving vehicle.”

This headline beamed at me through my phone while scrolling through Facebook. I was not surprised to see anger pouring out of the comments section on Facebook:

“When you see them, feel free to shoot them first and ask questions later.”

“I volunteer myself to torture the person responsible, so no one has to deal with the memories of doing it.”

I scrolled through several comments, each one filled with more voracity than the last. And with each comment was a profile linked to it, and in each profile, I was not surprised to see these very same people consuming animal products.

This raises the question: What justifies the needless killing of some animals, such as cows or pigs, while cruelty to dogs is not justified? And how can one maintain this stance of indifference toward the former while simultaneously becoming outraged at the latter?

Before proceeding, it is important to acknowledge that this question is not being posed to imply that bringing harm to dogs is OK. I operate under the principle that harm brought onto all animals is needless, harmful to one’s health and the environment, and displays a lack of empathy. I adapted these beliefs upon realizing my own logical inconsistency of consuming a diet consisting of meat. These beliefs will be expounded upon throughout this piece.

It becomes uncomfortable when people are confronted with justifying their personal life choices. But given that a double standard is necessarily a byproduct of holding these conflicting viewpoints, it is important that we face this discomforting cognitive dissonance head on.

¯ Cows and pigs are good for food. This is a good starting point as it highlights the aforementioned double standard. One could easily counter this point by asking: “So would you be comfortable eating a dog for food?” If the respondent says no, then they are blatantly applying a double standard and are arguing fallaciously. If they were to say yes, then they are contradicting their previous position of condemning those who bring harm to animals.

Furthermore, livestock only serves as a detriment to our food supply, as livestock consumes more grains than humans. These grains could go towards feeding the hungry if animal farming was abolished. Not to mention the massive amounts of water being used for these animals.

¯ What about differences in intelligence? This point would simply be rendered false, as pigs and cows demonstrate a higher level of sentience and self-awareness based on several tests such as the mirror recognition test. And using this point to justify killing beings with lower intelligence is cause for concern. Does this mean one would be justified in killing and eating someone less intelligent than them? I should hope not.

¯ It tastes good. This is a particularly disturbing point, as it has sinister undertones. Would I be justified in doing anything so long as it made me feel good? This could be used to justify any heinous act. What if, for instance, I’m eating at my friend’s house. But it turns out he’s really a secret cannibal, and serves me human meat. He tells me this afterwards as to make sure I got a taste before judging him for his lifestyle. Suddenly I realize my newfound love for human flesh. I myself then turn to cannibalism because ?it tastes good?.

Would I then be justified in killing and eating humans because it “tastes good”? If you say no, then you have a contradiction. If you say yes, please stay away from me.

Not to mention that this whole point is based on circular logic. Why does someone like doing something? Because it makes them feel good. It’s a meaningless tautology.

Meat is a convenient source of nutrients

There are several plant-based sources that can provide the nutrients necessary for a balanced diet. In fact, plant-based diets prevent heart disease risk, the number one killer worldwide. This is a benefit that is absent in omnivorous diets which significantly raise your cholesterol out of the healthy physiological range. I’ve had several people counter this point by claiming that their cholesterol is considered healthy “compared to the population.” This point is irrelevant, as the U.S. population is certainly not healthiest standard to strive for when it comes to health. It is not necessary for humans to kill animals for nutrient sources and, as stated before, only serves as a detriment to the overall food supply and health.

Harvesting plants also kills small wildlife. This argument ceases to amaze me in how myopic it is. Firstly, intent is important. The intentional killing of billions of innocent sentient beings is vastly worse than the unintentional killing of thousands. Secondly, for the sake of argument, even if one were to accept this point as true, it is a self-refuting point. Given that most of these grains are consumed by livestock, then the meat industry is effectively creating a greater demand for these grains. Thus, the meat industry is responsible for killing even more wildlife through harvesting more grains to feed these livestock. Third, this response is a classic example of whataboutism:

“Your lifestyle also kill animals, therefore I can kill animals”

This logic could justify tons of atrocious things, such as murder or rape:

“Other people commit those crimes, so why can’t I?”

And often one will counter this point by saying “well those acts are illegal, animals are different.” By appealing to social contracts laid out by laws, you could just as easily justify slavery. At one point, slavery was legal, does that justify it? In a civilized society, I would hope not.

So, let’s go back to the contentious questions:

What justifies the needless killing of some animals, such as cows or pigs, while cruelty to dogs is not justified? Nothing if one wishes to argue in good faith.

And how can one maintain this stance of indifference towards the former while simultaneously becoming outraged at the latter?

They cannot in a logically consistent way.

The point is that there exists a clear double standard in our current culture regarding animal suffering. And if one cannot live satisfactorily by acknowledging their contradictory life choices, then how can one continue living based on these axioms? I urge all people to challenge their own beliefs to be as logically consistent as possible. If one refuses to do so, there?s a word for that: hypocrisy.

Cody Austin is a Rochester resident.

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